True Crime Corner: Leonard Lake and Charles Ng

leonard lake

The last True Crime Corner featured the killing cousins who perpetrated The Hillside Strangler murders. In this edition, I’ll introduce you to another dangerous duo, Leonard Lake and Charles Ng.

Unlike last week’s subjects, Lake and Ng were not related. Leonard Lake was born in San Francisco, California, on October 29, 1945. He killed small animals and became interested in pornography early in his life. After his parents’ split, his grandparents were tasked with raising him until he joined the Marines. His stint in the service was during the Vietnam War, but he was never in combat. Instead, he worked as a radar operator. However, he had psychological issues, beginning when he was in the military, and received help while a soldier. His service to his country ended when he was diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder. He moved to California where he briefly attended college before dropping out. He became a bit of a paranoid doomsday prepper, fearing the potential of a nuclear war. Lake married a young woman in 1981, but it wasn’t until later that year did he meet his future partner in crime. Lake would eventually become separated from his wife.

Charles Ng was born in Hong Kong on December 24, 1960, the son of a wealthy father. He began getting into trouble with stealing at a young age, and came to the United States at 18 to attend school after attempts to get him on the right track at home failed. His academic career in America was short lived and he dropped out. Ng falsified his birthplace in order to join the Marines. However, he found himself incarcerated at Leavenworth Prison for stealing weapons from a military base. As a result, he received a dishonorable discharge from the service. His compulsion to steal would eventually lead to his downfall.

When Ng was relieved of duty, he landed in California and moved in with Lake. It’s unclear how the two men met, but it’s possible a survivalist magazine somehow brought them together. What is clear is that the men ruined the lives and families of both strangers and people they knew.

The pair kept a bunker on property in a remote area in California. Lake and Ng spent their time kidnapping, raping, and murdering innocent people. They were even brazen enough to kidnap families with small children. Another victim was someone Ng encountered in prison, and even Lake’s younger brother was believed murdered by the killers. Their body count was thought to be as high as 25 before they were stopped. Men and children likely met their fates soon after being kidnapped, while the females were tortured and used as slaves before being killed.

Remember how I mentioned that Ng’s propensity to steal would be his downfall? When Lake and Ng needed a new vise to torture their captives, they drove to a local store for a replacement. When Ng was caught attempting to shoplift, he fled the store on foot, leaving his partner to be questioned by authorities. In his rush to get away, Ng threw the stolen item into the trunk of the car they were using. A closer inspection of the vehicle revealed a pistol fitted with a silencer. Lake also attempted to pass himself off as someone else when he produced the identification of one of their victims. Police took Lake into custody.

Lake revealed the name of his partner who left him alone, and supposedly confessed to the crimes committed at the bunker. He managed to scribble a short note which seemed to be addressed to his ex-wife before committing suicide by swallowing two cyanide pills he had hidden in his shirt. He died a few days later.

Authorities descended on the bunker and made several gruesome discoveries. They found the crude cell where women were held captive. On the wall hung a list of rules females were advised to follow. Buried on the property were various items belonging to the victims, as well as weapons. Also found in the earth were paint cans filled with incriminating videos of both Lake and Ng engaged in their criminal activities. Over 40 pounds of bone fragments were found on the property. The manhunt for Charles Ng was underway.

Ng managed to elude police for about a month before being apprehended in Canada. Again, he couldn’t resist stealing, this time from a grocery store. The fugitive pulled a firearm and managed to shoot one of the officers who tried to thwart him, wounding the man’s hand in the process. For his trouble, Ng was sentenced to over four year’s imprisonment in Canada. The legal wrangling began when the United States located Ng. The prisoner was extradited to the U.S. in 1991, and he did his best to delay the proceedings, finally standing trial in 1999. The jury wasted no time finding him guilty in the deaths of 11 people, including 2 babies. Ng was condemned to die for his crimes, and was sent to death row at San Quentin.

If you want to read more about this case, there is Don Lasseter’s Die For Me: The Terrifying True Story of the Charles Ng/Leonard Lake Torture Murders. Another option is No Kill No Thrill: The Shocking True Story of Charles Ng – One of North America’s Most Ruthless Serial Killers by  Darcy Henton and Greg Owens


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